Hello fellow linguist in the making! We have had an amazing time discussing how language and race plays out in media this semester. We’ve laughed at ridiculous representations of black southern voices, we’ve judged a News anchor for verbally bullying a young and optimistic college student and we even played a whole hour and 15 minutes worth of Grand Theft Auto! (Plays “it’s so hard, to say goodbye to YESTERDAY” in the background faintly) Although we don’t want all this fun to end, sadly it’s time to wrap it all up into a neat bow, so here’s 5 take aways from our semester of analyzing, transcribing and discussing race, language and the media!
1. Live by CDA a.k.a Cultural Discourse Analysis when approaching a text. CDA is a tool used by linguist to dissect diverse text, the audiences in which the text is appealing to and specific linguistic structures and tools in which both the speaker and interlocutor must obtain to understand the text.
In a world where our media, News outlets in particular is heavily radicalized, there are certain cues that we as audiences identify and associate to particular groups through speech markers that the Anchors and reporters use. In other words, we are pretty much trained to read between the lines!
Ignore the photos for a second and just look at the language here. One young man is described as a “Suspect” who although may or may not have shot up a Theater is a “brilliant science student” while the other is fully named and only story is that he “Struggled with Officers before [a] shooting.” Neither of these headlines right out state the race of these boys but the language works to give us a clear image of their race.
- Language is used intentionally to perpetuate stereotypes and tropes of different groups. Not convinced by the twitter posting to above?
Let’s look at Disney!
“Bad” characters are usually associated with darker attributes, speak with a foreign accent or use African American English. “Good” characters on the other hand, speak GAE and are usually associated with light, purity and let’s face it, WHITENESS! Hint to why the only Black Disney princess is a frog for most of the movie and even though Jasmine, Mulan and Pocahontas are technically of colored and are voiced by woman of color, they still use standard American English.
Lost in the sauce right now? or Simply in Denial?
Hang on because maybe Disney’s subliminal perpetuation of race and use of stereotyping to teach children good from bad is not something you are willing to believe and I get it we were raised in the “Disney is life” era.
- BUT let’s be real! Minstrel Shows prove that media has been using linguistic tools toperform race far beyond the 80’s and 90’s. In the Jasmine x2 post of minstrel shows we got a bitter taste of how both Blacks and Whites mocked the Black experience, or what white writers perceived to be the Black experience through putting on musical numbers where both Black and White performers dressed up in Black face.
As stated in their post, “The primary black characters depicted in minstrel shows such as the Uncle Toms, care free Sambos, Mammies, Coons, Brutes, and Pickaninies were invented strategically by White people to reinforce white ideas about the inferior nature of blacks and the merits of continuing their degradation” (Taylor & Austen).
By listening to these Minstrel shows in class we got to experience first hand how these shows built an imagined image of Blackness, misused AAE and worked to further belittle Black bodies. It only continued as we dove into Blacks in films during the early 20th century. We learned that the roles produced in minstrel shows carried on into other forms of media as mainstream America continued to build upon the nostalgic view on American History.
Gone With The Wind, just about every Black trope from early Minstrel shows are brought to light and slaves are not only naïve but are shaped to seem completely happy with their position as second hand citizens.
Mini Side bar: Don’t forget how Black Comedians have used language to reshape the image of Black characters and use attributes of AAE (Habitual “Be”, Done, marking, cursing etc.) to talk about black topics and appeal to black audiences while still being able to speak to mainstream audiences.
- FUBU: For Us By Us…
If you’re feeling like I am ragging on Film’s portrayal of race, here’s a break as we reflect on the 1990-Present Black films. (My personal favorite topic that we touched upon) One thing that we should have all taken from this unit was that Black Films instilled a sense of Black pride in Black viewers and reimaged the tropes associated with Black Actors. No longer where the simply samboos, mammies and Jezebels, Black actor’s roles were expanded as Blaxploitation Films surfaced opening up the doors for more diverse views of the Black experience. Following these 70’s films were a bunch of Black movies that although were rooted in the “buppie,” “buddy” and “ghetto” storylines, still worked to produce films that are considered classics in Black America.
Sidebar: It was just a plus that these movies helped to publicize and promote Black rap music, which at the time was being heavily censored due to the truths woven into the lyrics.
- Last but Definitely Not Least… The Discourse never ends
Our Latino Dynamic Duo left their mark in discussing how Black Twitter has added to the way Blacks use language to advocate for and express blackness. They also discussed how social media has worked to put out information at a faster and much more accessible rate. In few characters we can stand in solidarity, pray for a country that is thousands of miles away and as Taylor Jones, taught us declare that we “write like we talk.”
So here is the Real Rap Raw:
We have spent a whole semester analyzing language within multiple text, discussing different forms of media and pin pointing how race is utilized when these text. Where do we go from here you ask?
Well…we continue the discourse, of course. As social media continues to advance and we are prompted to rely on it as our source of expression, news and knowledge we should all hold on to these tools that we have gathered to read beyond the text. We should always identify what we bring as audiences and how that impacts how we are receiving the text. In sum, we AFS 250 should from this class on never look at a text and not notice who it’s appealing to, what it is saying on a larger scale and what we are bringing to the text.
Now fly on my fellow linguist and CDA the heck out of everrrthang! #ThatsAllFolks
written by: Ja’Nai Harris